Northern Ireland

Criticism levelled at former TUV councillor over protest at 'drag' storytime event at the Mac

Former TUV councillor Jolene Bunting protesting outside the Mac. Picture by Philip Walsh
Former TUV councillor Jolene Bunting protesting outside the Mac. Picture by Philip Walsh

A FORMER TUV councillor was among a handful of people who yesterday mounted a protest against a family story time event in Belfast because it was hosted by a drag queen.

Jolene Bunting and other associates gathered outside the Mac in the city centre ahead of Dragtime Stories with Cherrie Ontop, part of the city's Pride Weekend celebrations.

However, the former Belfast councillor and her fellow protesters were vastly outnumbered by a counter-protest of up to two dozen people in support of the afternoon event.

The Untold Truth of Captain Hook promised a "storytime like no other for families".

One of the protesters was pictured emptying a bottle of what appeared to be holy water near the counter protest, while prayers were also said.

Ms Bunting told The Irish News the protest was "in opposition to child grooming".

"Our message is simple... leave our kids alone," she said.

"I can confirm that both Catholics, Protestants and none religious people attended the Parents Against Grooming protest today."

Host Cherrie Ontop later invited supporters inside the building to personally thank them.

A statement from the Mac said management at the arts venue "believe every child should enjoy creative experiences that fuel their imagination".

"We work with professional artists whom we know and trust, ad provide guidance to parents/carers to make informed decisions," the statement said.

"We are proud to present Dragtime Stories for MAC families."

SDLP councillor Seamas de Faoite, who joined the counter-protestors for a time, wondered if those concerned about the Mac event would be "picketing May McFetteridge or Agnes Brown next?”

"Drag has been involved in age appropriate entertainment like the pantomime since before Northern Ireland even existed," he said.

"It’s disappointing that even in 2022 a small rabble can find it in themselves to protest a family orientated event at the end of the most successful Belfast Pride week to date.”